News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Broad Consent for Research With Biological Samples: Workshop Conclusions

By Christine Grady, Lisa Eckstein, Ben Berkman, Dan Brock, Robert Cook-Deegan, Stephanie M. Fullerton, Hank Greely, Mats G. Hansson, Sara Hull, Scott Kim, Bernie Lo, Rebecca Pentz, Laura Rodriguez, Carol Weil, Benjamin S. Wilfond, and David Wendler | The American Journal of Bioethics | August 25, 2015

Abstract:

Different types of consent are used to obtain human biospecimens for future research. This variation has resulted in confusion regarding what research is permitted, inadvertent constraints on future research, and research proceeding without consent. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center’s Department of Bioethics held a workshop to consider the ethical acceptability of addressing these concerns by using broad consent for future research on stored biospecimens. Multiple bioethics scholars, who have written on these issues, discussed the reasons for consent, the range of consent strategies, and gaps in our understanding, and concluded with a proposal for broad initial consent coupled with oversight and, when feasible, ongoing provision of information to donors. This article describes areas of agreement and areas that need more research and dialogue. Given recent proposed changes to the Common Rule, and new guidance regarding storing and sharing data and samples, this is an important and timely topic.

Read the full article here.

A Search Warrant For Your Brain?

By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg | Inside Science | 24 February 2015

Brain imaging can already pull bits of information from the minds of willing volunteers in laboratories. What happens when police or lawyers want to use it to pry a key fact from the mind of an unwilling person?

Will your brain be protected under the Fourth Amendment from unreasonable search and seizure?

Or will your brain have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination? Continue reading »

Hank Greely: Neuroimaging, Mindreading, and the Courts

Neuroimaging is making subjective mental states, like physical and emotional pain, visible and verifiable. How much should the law change with this new insight into the mind? Professor Hank Greely of the Stanford School of Law shares an optimistic yet cautious exploration of these cutting-edge issues in law & neuroscience. Dr. Greely is Director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences and former Co-director of the MacArthur Foundation Law and Neuroscience Project.

The talk was delivered as the Stuart Rome Lecture during the conference “Imaging the Brain, Changing Minds: Chronic Pain Neuroimaging and the Law,” at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law on April 24, 2014, presented in part by the Law & Health Care Program.

Imaging the Brain, Changing Minds: Chronic Pain Neuroimaging and the Law

On April 24-25, 2014, the symposium, Imaging the Brain, Changing Minds: Chronic Pain Neuroimaging and the Law, took place at the University of Maryland School of Law.

An interdisciplinary collaboration between pain neuroimaging researchers, legal decision-makers, and legal scholars, the symposium’s goal was to create dialogue between these fields, and to make legal actors aware of recent, breakthrough work in neuroimaging that has led to a paradigm shift in understanding chronic pain.  This new science may have the potential to change legal doctrines and shift legal and cultural norms about chronic pain diseases and their sufferers.  Doing so responsibly requires understanding the potential of the science, and also its limits.

CLBB Faculty member, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, and pain expert Amanda Pustilnik, JD, was an organizer for this roundtable. The symposium was attended by a selection of law and neuroscience scholars, including Hank Greely, Martha Farah, and the Hon. Nancy Gertner, a CLBB Faculty member and Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School. Greely delivered the keynote, “Neuroimaging, Mind Reading, and the Courts;” the video is available here.

This event was jointly sponsored by the Law & Health Care Program at University of Maryland Carey Law School, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Law and Neuroscience

By Owen Jones, Rene Marois, Martha Farah, and Hank Greely | The Journal of Neuroscience | November 2013

Abstract

Law and neuroscience seem strange bedfellows. But the engagement of law with neuroscientific evidence was inevitable. For one thing, the effectiveness of legal systems in regulating behavior and meting out justice often depends on weighing evidence about how and why a person behaved as he or she did. And these are things that neuroscience can sometimes illuminate. For another, lawyers are ethically bound to champion their clients’ interests. So they remain alert for new, relevant, or potentially persuasive information, such as neuroscience may at times offer, that could help to explain or contextualize behavior of their clients. In light of this, and in the wake of remarkable growth in and visibility of neuroscientific research, a distinct field of Law & Neuroscience (sometimes called “neurolaw”) has emerged in barely a decade.

Whether this engagement is ultimately more for better or for worse (there will be both) will depend in large measure on the effectiveness of transdisciplinary partnerships between neuroscientists and legal scholars. How can they best help the legal system to understand both the promise and the perils of using neuroscientific evidence in legal proceedings? And how can they help legal decision-makers draw only legally and scientifically sound inferences about the relationships between particular neuroscientific evidence and particular behaviors?

In this article, we highlight some efforts to establish and expand such partnerships. We identify some of the key reasons why neuroscience may be useful to law, providing examples along the way. In doing so, we hope to further stimulate interdisciplinary communication and collaborative research in this area.

Read the full paper here.